Located right across the street from Li Li’s, Phoenix Palace, and China Magic Noodle House is a place called Lee’s Sandwiches, a surprisingly big sandwich shop that is known for their declicious banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich.
For a history lesson, the French colonized Vietnam a little bit and as with all colizations, basic foods get transformed in a very obscure way. Basically, the famous French baguette was cut in half and a bunch of Vietnamese ingredients were inserted in it.
The standard Vietnamese Banh mi consists of a baguette bun, with Vietnamese deli meats (head cheese, “pork rolls”, freshly pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and most likely slathered in mayonnaise.
If you’ve ever wandered around San Jose looking for food, this store reminds me of the Vietnamese restaurants I see. Huge in-house bakery retailers that sell sandwiches and other assorted Vietnamese products.
I went here a couple of times but luckly, I was able to go with a couple of friends who didn’t even know what a Bahn Mi is. I told my friend who would have the most trouble adjusting to Vietnamese food to order a grilled pork sandwich, their most popular item. However, I am a fan of authenticity and I ordered their “combination” sandwich. This sandwich consists of Vietnamese deli meats such as Cha Lua, a cooked pork roll lightly seasoned with fish sauce, and traditionally steamed or boiled in a banana leaf. Thit Nguoi is a Vietnamese salami containing cured pork layered with fat and headcheese.
Whenever I order these ingredients… I always regret not getting the grilled pork. It’s not like these plastic-like deli meats are flavorful, but grilled meat is just so much more satisfying. You have a delicious warmth when you bite into it, and the succulent juices of grilled meat just doesn’t match the deli meat bite.
Either way, my friend enjoyed her sandwich.
The unique thing about Bahn Mi is the flavorful combinations through each bite. It satisfies literally every type of taste and texture you can think about. The baguette is extremely crunchy and complements the creaminess of the mayonnaise, the sweet and sour pickled vegetables bring a pucker of flavor and the cilantro gives freshness. Of course, the meat is the savory (umami for nerds) and juicy component.
For dessert, we decided to eat macarons. These colorful little cookies can pretty much impress everyone. My friend who tried them said that she had better at the Scottsdale Fashion Center, but I think those are a gold standard. Either way, when you bite into the macarons, you get a crispy outside and a semi-gooey inside which is what I like to find in my macarons.
The green tea macarons don’t taste like green tea. They have a hint of lemon.
As I mentioned before, Lee’s Sandwiches remind me of a standard San Jose Vietnamese market shop except pristine and very clean. My friends and I were treated with a beautiful decorated Lunar New Year tree walking in. Like most Vietnamese places of this type, Vietnamese products are displayed on wired racks all the way throughout the register.
There is technically no service in the restaurant. You go up and order it pretty much like fast food.
$4.00 or so for a 10 inch sandwich at most. Well worth the price and you can argue can give Subway a run for their money.
For the sandwiches, you have two menus, the Vietnamese sandwiches and the American sandwiches with about 10 options each. Of course, you’re here for some legitimate banh mi so your options are: weird Vietnamese meats, grilled meats, or vegetarian.
If you want a quick bite to eat and you want to experience a Vietnamese subway, just go to Lee’s Sandwiches and you will not be disappointed.